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Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 24 Oct 2019, 12:13
"I have thought it my duty to put my discoveries on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof." Antonie von Leeuwenhoek.
In the 1600s, little Holland, 'the Netherlands,' led the world in banking, manufacture, and trade. This prosperity, widely shared among the Dutch people, was the great puzzle of the era. After all, the Dutch taxed themselves heavily, partly to pay for reclaiming land from the North Sea, but also to finance their wars. No one, it seems, liked this little upstart. England went to war three times to punish the Dutch for being so clever, only eventually (in 1689) to accept a Dutch prince as its monarch, and at the beginning of the era Catholic Spain fought for 80 years, brutally and unsuccessfully, to retain its overlordship of the region. Later the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, tried conquering Holland, and also failed. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was born in Delft on October 24, 1632, and his life offers an answer to the puzzle. The Dutch were religiously tolerant, interested in their world, entrepreneurial, and inventive. They made life seem promising for their young people. Antonie took up the promise. He was orphaned at a young age and apprenticed in the cloth industry, his master a Scottish Presbyterian. Eventually (1660) he set up shop as a haberdasher, but like the Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza, in Amsterdam, Antonie had already started messing around with glass lenses. What began as a hobby became an obsession, and through trial and error Antonie was eventually able to see "animalcules" with his "microscope." And, indeed, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is credited as the inventor of the microscope and with the discovery that minute life existed, that it ingested food, and that it reproduced. Just like us. So Antonie the haberdasher became Antonie the scientist, a leading member of the Royal Society (England) and of the Académie des Sciences (France), and widely recognized as a father of the Enlightenment. It also seems likely that Antonie von Leeuwenhoek sat as a model for his Delft neighbor Johannes Vermeer, just 4 days older, who also had spent some time as an apprentice in the wool trade. But that’s another story. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 24 Oct 2019, 20:06
Nice clip of Baroness Trumpingyon who seemed to dislike being reminded of her age.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 25 Oct 2019, 13:12
"Joy is such a human madness." Zadie Smith, 2013.
Zadie Smith is a still-young (to my way of thinking, anyway) novelist who’s also made quite a splash as an essayist, notably a 2013 piece in which she made much of the differences between joy and pleasure. ‘Pleasure’ is what it is, for instance the enjoyment she shares with her husband (a novelist and poet) in gawking at people and then describing their outer or inner beauties, or her uncritical enjoyment of all sorts of foods, even (she confessed in another essay) sausage rolls. With luck, pleasures happen often enough to make life pleasant. Joy, on the other hand, she finds “a strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight.” Up to then, 2013, she’d run into joy maybe a half-dozen times and wasn’t sure she wanted more, although since it’s come more often (not least in birth-giving and parenthood). So Smith has pleasure often enough to know what she likes. On still rare occasions, she becomes joy, is freighted with it, dizzied by it, terrified of leaving it. It is, she says, like holding one’s child. Zadie was born Sadie Smith, in London NW, on October 25, 1975, a mixed-race offspring of an English father and a West Indian mother. They divorced in her teens, but she managed to love them both anyway. She also, very early, loved to write, and at 14 changed her name to Zadie in honor of Zora Neale Hurston. But the whole list of her literary heroes is a rainbow coalition, including Nabokov, for instance, which may help to explain her often surprising jests, her humor of surprise. She took that rainbow list to Cambridge and learned enough more about it to garner a good degree (an upper second) and the notion that she might actually make a living as a writer. Since then, she’s succeeded at that, spectacularly, she’s married Nick Laird, parented with him two times, and the couple commutes between academic appointments in the US (she in New York, he at Princeton) and the many pleasures—and maybe a joy or two—of a yearly return to their home grounds. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 26 Oct 2019, 12:29
"The overflowing blessings from this fountain of public good and national abundance will be as extensive as our own country and as durable as time." -- DeWitt Clinton. 1825.
American politicians are not famed for the pith of their rhetoric. Certainly our congress people’s talk talents might be helped by immersion in public, face-to-face debates. But there’s a presidential sound bite that has attained near sacred status, and that is that “government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” That is an inanity on several counts, not least historically. Today would be an appropriate time to reconsider it, for it was on October 26, 1825, that Governor DeWitt Clinton made a speech, pulled the plug, and made water flow directly from the Old Northwest to New York City. It was the opening of the Erie Canal, most assuredly a government exercise in problem solving. Along the “water level route” flowed also a tidal wave of goods, people, and capital, each in a two-way traffic. Erie transformed the upper Midwest, spurred the growth of our money markets, made New York City our financial capital and, as many historians have shown, injected entrepreneurship into American culture. It even helped to spur a religious revival what became known as New York’s “burned-over district.” “The Erie” was built by the state of New York, and its dramatic success led to a rash of public investments by other states and to demands that the national government get into the act. Such ideas were opposed by the South, anxious to protect slavery from a nosy national government, but southern secession in 1861 fixed that problem. Immediately the southern representatives decamped, Congress devoted public resources to build railways and roads, to create state universities, to improve harbors, to subsidize homesteader settlement, to make our great rivers into highways of trade, to explore new methods of taxation, to print paper money by the bushel, and, not incidentally, to win the Civil War and extirpate slavery. It’s known as problem-solving, and governments (pace Ronald Reagan) can be quite good at it. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 27 Oct 2019, 13:13
"The Men at first would not eat The Sour Kroutt, until I had some of it dressed every day for the Captain's Table, and left it to the Option of the men either to take as much as they pleased or none at all." Cook's Journal, April 1769, on his preven...
In ancient times, the belief that the earth’s land mass must be balanced led to the Ptolemaic legend of a great southern continent, terra australis. The myth persisted, and the continent appeared (hazily) on many maps during the Age of Exploration, 1500-1800. It was laid to rest by the first (1768-71) and second (1772-75) voyages of Captain James Cook. Cook’s meticulous mapping (aided on the second voyage by having on board experimental chronometers) taught the West to be satisfied with the actual Australia, and he made other first discoveries and first mappings as well. James Cook was born in Yorkshire’s North Riding on October 27, 1728. Despite his humble origins (his father was then a day laborer), Cook would become a great navigator and a noted man of science. He was not exactly self-taught, but his was a life of learning, beginning in a village school and then as an apprentice seaman in the coal fleet. He learned seamanship well enough to take a command in the Royal Navy in 1757, picking up surveying and mapping along the way. In 1762-3 Cook mapped the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and was judged by his admiral a man of “Genius and Capacity . . . well qualified for greater Undertakings.” And so in 1768 Cook was chosen to command HMS Endeavour on its Royal Society expedition to the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus, to search for terra australis, and to map and collect botanical specimens. His success brought further voyages, further discoveries (including how to prevent scurvy and other shipboard sicknesses) and justified Cook’s membership in the Royal Society. On his last voyage (1776-79), he was killed in Hawaii by the locals, in a dispute over a stolen cutter. The Hawaiians treated his body with great respect, burning it and bleaching the bones as, they believed, befitted a great commander, but at length they returned parts of the skeleton to Cook’s second-in-command. So James Cook’s bones—some of them—were buried at sea in March 1779. His best memorials are his maps and his journals. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 28 Oct 2019, 12:21
"It was never my primary interest to preserve the authenticity of Cuban melody and harmonies just for the sake of preservation." Chico O'Farrill.
The racist rhetoric of altogether too many Gringo politicians paints a flat portrait of Latin American ethnicity, but ethnically the region is as much a smorgasbord as is the USA. My favorite evidence for this is the pantheon of Irish heroes of the Latin American revolutions, not only Bernardo O’Higgins in Chile, but in Mexico William Lamport and across the region we find surnames like Ferguson, O’Leary, and O’Connell (and, for good measure, their statues). And then there came Arturo ‘Chico’ O’Farrill, born in Havana, Cuba, on October 28, 1921, to an Irish father (and a German mother). Were ancestry a guide, Arturo would have become a commercial lawyer overseeing the island’s European trade, and that’s what his parents wanted. Instead, Arturo became Chico, and as if to embody the rainbow variegations of Hispanic-ness Chico became an exemplar of Afro-Cuban jazz, trumpeter by trade but also composer, band-leader, and teacher. It wasn’t easy. Arturo had first to convince mom and dad that he wasn’t a lawyer, offering them a second-best as a classical horn player, so they sent him to the Julliard School in New York, where, on the sly, he continued to play the stuff he’d picked up in Havana’s back streets. In a peripatetic career (New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and occasionally Havana) he played all kinds of jazz, composed all sorts too, worked with Art Farmer, Dizzie Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and Count Basie (et al); and yet throughout Chico O’Farrill, Hiberno-German to a fault and Hispanic at his core, devoted himself, his wife (the singer Lupe Valero), and in due course their son, the pianist Arturo O’Farrill (Jr., now based in Mexico City), to the preservation, composition, and performance of the distinctive rhythms and melodies of Afro-Cuban jazz. Chico O’Farrill died in 2001. Sadly his musical manuscripts and private papers were destroyed in the Universal Studio fire of 2008, in Los Angeles. But many recordings survive, including quite a few of Chico’s ‘Hispanic’ compositions played by the bands of Gillespie and Kenton—and of Chico O’Farrill. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 29 Oct 2019, 13:08
'The morning was grey, but Queen Marie carried light within her.' Colette, writing in Le Matin of Queen Marie's arrival at the Versailles Conference, 1919.
The appealing legend about how (in 1934) the RMS Queen Mary was named, inadvertently, has been exploded, and now we know it was a done deal. The ‘National’ government under Ramsay MacDonald forced a Depression deal that included the merger between Cunard and White Star (and required the new firm to build a second grand liner, to be named RMS Queen Elizabeth). But RMS Queen Mary could so easily have been the “Queen Marie.” Instead of marrying his cousin, the Princess Marie, as his grandmama (that was Queen Victoria) had wished, the future George V wed, instead, Princess Mary of Teck, who thus became the namesake of the fastest boat afloat. As it happened, life had more exciting things in store for Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria, born at Eastwell Park, County Kent, on October 29, 1875. Her father (Victoria’s second son) and her mother (Grand Duchess Alexandra, only daughter of Tsar Alexander II) were destined for the duchy of Saxe Coburg Gotha, and Alexandra wanted her daughter to have an eastern throne. So Princess Marie (aka “Missy” to the British royals) was married off to Ferdinand Hohenzollern who, though merely a German prince, was heir-designate to the throne of Romania. This all turned out to be the last fling of European royalty, not so much musical chairs as musical daughters, but Princess Marie, who became Queen Consort in 1913, made the most of it. A romantic figure whether on horseback, at court, or on the ballroom floor, she acquired a lover (yet another prince), became a war hero (as a battlefront nurse on the dreadful eastern front), and was a hugely successful diplomat for Romania at the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919. After her husband’s death in 1927, Queen Marie gamely attempted to be named her young son’s regent, but failed. Exiled to her summer palace on the Black Sea, she continued to make the best of life, but she died (probably not of natural causes) in 1938, just two months before the launching ceremonies, at Glasgow, for RMS Queen Elizabeth. She could so easily have been there. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 30 Oct 2019, 11:58
"Already at the origin of the species man was equal to what he was destined to become." Jean Rostand.
What does one do whose father was a leading romantic playwright and whose mother was a famed romantic poet? Well, of course, you become a research biologist specializing in the study of frogs and toads. That’s the story of Jean Edmond Cyrus Rostand, born in Paris on October 30, 1894 to Edmond Rostand and Rosemonde Gérard (she of the couplet
For you see each day I love you more,
Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.
L’éternelle chanson, 1890.)
It must have been quite a family. Jean Rostand’s sole sibling, Maurice, was a literary man (poet, novelist, playwright, uncloseted homosexual), and in due course both Maurice and Jean became members of Jean-Paul Sartre’s literary circle. So we should expect that Jean the biologist would write about more than anurae (aka the tailless amphibians). And so he did, becoming a great popularizer of science, and not only for the French. Several of his periodic “reports from a biologist” (various titles, but that was the gist of all of them) were translated into English, and he wrote widely, too, about the philosophy of science. In all this, Rostand displayed high hopes for toads and frogs but was more than occasionally pessimistic about homo sapiens. “The biologist passes; the frog remains.” This was not surprising; he lived through two great wars and one world depression, and voiced his desperation thus: “my pessimism extends even to the point of suspecting the sincerity of other pessimists.” So, clearly, Rostand was capable of humor, and also affection, which he gave out freely to all and sundry: his fellow scientists, who read his frog and toad papers; his fellow literati, who enjoyed his philosophy and criticism, and the lay folk who liked to read sprightly prose about the many peculiarities des grenouilles et des crapauds. In his enthusiasms, Rostand even toyed with the notion that we humans might tear a page from amphibian anatomy and try a bit of regeneration, but I don’t think he ever tried it. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 31 Oct 2019, 13:32
"[Vermeer's work] invites the observer to come closer, to close with the painting, peer into it, become intimate with it. Such art reinforces human dignity". Germaine Greer.
Being a very good, or near-great, painter in 17th-century Holland could be good business, but Johannes Vermeer never quite made that grade; in 1675 he died deeply in debt, his wife and their ten surviving children left behind in poverty. There were reasons for this. Johannes Vermeer was born, in Delft, on October 31, 1632, so perhaps he died just as his reputation was gathering force. He was improvident, even with his painting where he used unusually expensive pigments, and he seems to have painted alone, not a member of a school. And as a dealer in the art of others he had, like his father before him, invested too heavily in stock, and it was his bad luck to fall ill and die in a time of war, when the price of paintings had plummeted. Add to that the fact that most of his (few) paintings had been purchased by a neighbor, and we have a reputation killed almost at its birth. But in the last century it was revived, or resurrected, by Proust and other writers, and then very lately Vermeer and his paintings have become downright famous. First (1999) there was an opera, Writing to Vermeer, and the Tracy Chevalier novel (and 2003 film) Girl with a Pearl Earring. Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia (2004) uses Vermeer’s paintings to frame (so to speak) the Bosnian war crimes trials that took place in The Hague. And then, starting with David Hockney, there was a series of efforts to show that Vermeer had a special genius, an unnaturally sharp appreciation of light and color, and a magical ability to capture both in oil and those rare and costly pigments. And so now we have, in addition to Vermeer the near-great painter (Vermeer as the ‘Rembrandt of Delft’, so to speak), Vermeer the genius in optics. It’s a neat story, and it gives some additional spin to the fact that Johannes Vermeer’s neighbor (and the executor of his estate) was Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a dealer in optical lenses and the inventor of the microscope. Or, maybe, it was just a coincidence. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 01 Nov 2019, 13:20
"All my life I have felt most strongly against social distinction of any kind." L. S. Lowry to Harold Wilson, 1967, refusing a knighthood.
Lawrence Stephen Lowry, one of the oddest of artists, lived one of the oddest of lives. He was born in Stretford, Manchester, on November 1, 1887, the only child of an unhappy marriage. In this domestic strife he took his mother’s side, but it is not at all clear that he liked her. Certainly she—a bit of a snob—did not like his enthusiasm for drawing and painting (lowly trades) and she was pleased when he left art school to take up an accounting apprenticeship. He then worked at a property management firm, moving slowly up its ladder for 50 years, retiring with a full pension in the 1950s; but as Lowry’s reputation as a painter grew he maintained that he was only a painter. The 9-to-5 was a secret. He had, he said, a substantial inheritance from his mother, who’d died in 1939. It may have been private joke as well as public myth, and I see a humor—obstinate, quiet—in his art. Until his retirement from accountancy, Lowry painted at nights, secretively, always in artificial light. But in his paintings (typically of industrial scenes) there often seems to be plenty of light, suffusing industrial Manchester’s “dark satanic mills” in a misty, understated glow, sometimes provided by snow but otherwise just there, a presence. Lowry’s work taken as a whole is now seen to be varied (including seascapes) but his trademark ‘industrial’ paintings showcased “matchstick men,” odd figures seen at a distance, going about their business almost randomly. Whatever Lowry’s intentions, those spare, small, figures seemed to me lively, people who might have a story to tell. Lowry came out of his own shell late in life, moved to a suburban house, received all manner of honorary degrees and artistic gongs. But he refused a knighthood in 1967 when it was offered by the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. What was the point? His mother was nearly 30 years dead, and she, at least, would have enjoyed the honor. Lowry died, fairly rich, in 1976; he left most of his work to the Salford Art Gallery, and a selection is almost always on display at The Lowry, Salford’s strikingly modern theatre and concert hall. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 02 Nov 2019, 14:07
"I consider poetry a source of innocence full of revolutionary forces." Odysseus Elytis.
I have been good about reading the works of Americans who’ve won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but my record with ‘foreign’ winners, especially non-Anglophone ones, is spotty to make the best of it. Translation is a problem (I have read Albert Camus, Nobel 1957, in French) but also an excuse (a friend tells me I must learn Spanish really to appreciate Pablo Neruda, Nobel 1971). So it’s some comfort to me that when Odysseus Elytis won the Nobel (in 1979, for his poetry) his fellow Greeks were as surprised as any amongst the barbarians. We may spot an irony here, Greece being the fountain and base of much in literature, yet Elytis was only the second Greek to take the Nobel. But politics may have been involved, too. Odysseus Elytis was born in Iráklion, Crete, on November 2, 1911. ‘Elytis’ was not his birth surname; he was an heir to the Alepoudhelis family, prominent industrialists whose fortunes rested on olive oil and soap. Young Odysseus’s personal odyssey really took off when, studying law in Athens, he was bit by the bug of surrealism, changed his surname, and began to publish (in the surreal mode) in the sort of ephemeral literary magazines that tend to spring up around eccentric writers. But Elytis was a surrealist who came laden with principles, and when in October 1940 the Axis powers invaded Greece he was already fighting the Italians in Albania. He continued with the Greek Resistance, and after the liberation published a poem, call it a kind of Iliad, the “Heroic and Elegiac Song for the Lost Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign”. In the Greek civil war that followed, it became an unofficial anthem of the left, even though Elytis had before been something of a loner in ideological terms. Thus identified with communists and socialists, he became one, and after the Greek military coup of 1967, Odysseus found it politic to flee to Paris. So just as the junta’s colonels had, during their seven years’ rule (1967-74), censored the work of Greece’s only previous Nobelist (Giorgos Seferis, 1963), Elytis’s 1979 prize was, in his homeland, not universally appreciated. That sounds to me like a recommendation. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 03 Nov 2019, 12:46
"The term 'community' implies a diversity but at the same time a certain organized conformity . . . whether this be a beech forest, a meadow, or a heath." Eugen Warming, 1895
In 1979, Paulette’s cousin Niels (then studying Scandinavian archeology) showed us around Odense University, founded in 1966. We were especially impressed by the newest buildings, not only their pleasing design but their superb insulation, including triple-glazed external doors and windows. On inquiry, we were told that the Danes were, even then, responding to climate change. Their pioneering was especially appropriate, for one of the founders of ecological studies was a Dane, perhaps providentially named, Eugen Warming. He was born November 3, 1841, on Mandø, a tiny North Sea island now threatened by rising sea levels. His father, the Lutheran minister there, died in 1844, so Eugen was raised by an uncle on the mainland. Warming studied conventional botany at the University of Copenhagen (eventually, in 1871, receiving the PhD). His degrees were somewhat delayed as he had been taken on as an expedition assistant by his professor, and spent three years in northern Brazil, studying plant life in a tropical savannah. But Warming early became fascinated by varietal adaptation and speciation in harsher climates, not only in northern Scandinavia but in Iceland and Greenland. Like Russian biologists studying Siberia, Warming quickly came to appreciate life’s adaptions to unforgiving environments, and drew from this the view that it was more important to study plant communities than to concentrate on individual species. The fittest survived, but fitness (adaptation) often came with cooperation, not only amongst individuals of the same species but also from the biota at large. Eugen Warming did not coin the term “ecology,” but he was the first to see, and to understand, how a meadow, a forest, or a tundra existed as a community, incorporating both competition and cooperation as vital elements of survival. His seminal study, Plantesamfund (1895), translated into many languages (in English as Oecology of Plants: An Introduction to the Study of Plant-Communities) outlined an approach to nature that we ignore at our peril. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 04 Nov 2019, 13:11
“Stronger than lover's love is lover's hate. Incurable, in each, the wounds they make.” ― Euripides, Medea.
However unwise Representative Katie Hill (D., Cal.) has been, her resignation shows that our double standards concerning sexuality and gender are still alive and well. Hill is the victim of “revenge porn;” the publication of her indiscretions has ruined—or, perhaps, paused—her political career. But she could take up writing. Over a century ago, the curse of the double standard led another woman—wronged by her husband—to mount a revenge campaign of her own, not porn but certainly in print. She was Lady Lytton, born Rosina Anne Doyle Wheeler, in County Limerick, Ireland, on November 4, 1802. Her father (of the Irish peerage) deserted her mother, but her maternal connections were well-heeled enough to bring the girl up well, or at least to a life of privilege, on the Isle of Jersey, where her Uncle John was governor. So her 1827 marriage to Edward George Bulwer Lytton, of the English nobility, was socially appropriate, however much it displeased Edward’s mother. Now penniless in terms of hereditary income, the husband turned to writing fiction, to amatory affairs, and to violence against Rosina, and she (in her turn) encouraged the advances of an Italian nobleman. Women being always at fault in these matters, in an 1836 separation settlement Lady Lytton lost contact, forever, with her children, and had to settle for a (for her) measly annuity of £400 per annum. Once she’d found cheap enough lodgings, she set about her riposte, in fiction and autobiography and at least once in public, when Edward was campaigning for a parliamentary seat. Whether Lady Lytton’s fictions were thinly-disguised chronicles of her own sufferings, or of a more ‘anonymous’ nature, she returned often to the themes of abusive husbands, suffering wives, and the absurd injustices of the Victorian double standard. Lady Lytton died alone in 1882. Her estrangement from the Bulwer Lyttons ended finally in 1995, when her great-great grandson David Lytton Cobbold, 2nd Baron Cobbold, placed a stone on her previously unmarked grave. Its inscription reads “The Lord will give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.” Just as she had asked. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 05 Nov 2019, 12:44
"A person who deserves my loyalty receives it." Joyce Maynard.
In Holden Caulfield, J. D. Salinger created one of fiction’s most appealing and most durable characters. Soon after, Salinger disappeared from view, only to become a legend, reclusive, eccentric to a fault: but a hero, too. One only has to think of Joe Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe, the working title of which was “The Kidnapping of J. D. Salinger,” to understand Kinsella’s adulation. But Kinsella changed his mind; dire threats from Salinger’s lawyers caused the ‘movie of the book’ (Field of Dreams) to create an entirely fictional author to kidnap, not only not-Salinger but not-white (played masterfully by James Earl Jones). Another author who’d adored Salinger changed her mind much earlier, but she waited longer let it all hang out. She was, and is, Joyce Maynard, and her Salinger memoir, At Home in the World (1998), sparked outrage. Whether or not the book was a good one (most critics gave it a thumbs down on that score), it was, it seems, especially bad for a woman to tell all, and even worse to tell all about an eccentric old man who, after writing such a wonderful novel as The Catcher in the Rye, had retired into the Northwoods to be himself. But as Maynard’s memoir made clear, Salinger as himself could be unpleasant, sexually and in other ways. As for Joyce Maynard herself, she was born into an academic family on November 5, 1953. She entered Yale in 1971, part of Yale’s third female class, and quickly became a sensation as a published writer, a world-weary observer oddly like Holden Caulfield (except slightly older, somewhat wiser, and much more female). Salinger wrote her an encouraging note, she responded, he wrote back. Maynard dropped out of Yale and dropped in on Salinger, and there she stayed, for about 8 months, learning a few things she didn’t know about sex, and also about eccentricity. That’s all there is to it, although in the meanwhile—between the affair and the exposé—Maynard did become a modestly successful novelist and essayist. But to me the best part of the story is that she has returned to Yale (as a sophomore in 2018) and she’s now a junior, making a second splash and, possibly, a better one. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 06 Nov 2019, 13:42
"In general, thieves have small wandering eyes . . . distorted or squashed noses, thin beards and hair, and sloping foreheads,” Cesare Lambroso, 1878.
We humans have proved expert at many things, including self-admiration. This understandable if morally frail trait was given a huge boost by Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories. No fault of Darwin, but “survival of the fittest” sounded like a great idea to folks who ranked themselves among the fittest, and so Darwin’s science, in lesser hands, became a kind of social narcissism for those classes or races which thought themselves Lords of Creation. Its most famous expression was “social Darwinism,” but there were other efforts, most notably Cesare Lombroso’s theories concerning criminality. Lombroso, born in Verona on November 6, 1835, was descended from a long line of rabbis but decided, nevertheless, to take up forensic medicine as a career. His musings on, and observations of, criminals (and the insane) led him to think of criminality as an abnormality. At that point, his “aha” moment came in the mid 1870s when he examined the body of a dead man, a convicted arsonist and petty burglar, and spotted an oddity at the back of the man’s skull, an indentation Lombroso was ready to think of as “apelike”. In 1878 he published L’uomo delinquente (“Criminal Man”), which elaborated on the idea and proclaimed a ‘darwinian’ theory that criminality arose from an atavistic strain, not yet fully erased from our evolutionary past, and moreover an atavism that could be identified through close observation of physical characteristics, for instance the shape of the eyes, the slope of the forehead, the prominence of the jaw, even left-handedness, and of course that odd indentation. These notions fit right in with the rise of modern racism, and Lombroso’s ideas were popular for a time, particularly in fascist Italy where Mussolini thought that, in the case of crime, an ounce of prevention was better than a ton of cure. Lambroso’s anatomical views have since been discredited, but his later modifications to include environmental factors like poverty and lack of education give him some claim to be called a father of modern criminology. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 06 Nov 2019, 14:03
What to say? Good effort to extrapolate from this Italian 19th century 'expert' (never trust them
) and his views on criminality, to modern day racism. how long did it take for his anatomical views to be discredited? I'd have done it in ten minutes.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 07 Nov 2019, 12:49
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood." Marie Curie.
Marie Curie, still the only woman to win two Nobel prizes and the only person to win in two separate disciplines (Physics, 1903, and Chemistry, 1911), was born Maria Sklodowska, in Warsaw, on November 7, 1867. Before she died the world would praise her courage as well as her wisdom, and she learned courage in family stories. Her father, her mother, and indeed her elder siblings were Polish nationalists, heroes who’d suffered for the cause of Polish independence (from Tsarist Russia). This affected her family’s fortunes, and in order to study Maria had to work to find her educational fees. But she became a student radical anyway, working with her sister Bronislawa in “The Flying University,” a without-the-walls ‘speakeasy’ which dared to educate women and was known for its irreligion. Soon she found it politic to flee Poland, following Bronislawa to Paris, where Maria lodged in a garret and continued to scrabble for tuition fees. Thanks to her studies in Warsaw, she earned her first degree in quick order, in Physics, and got a job in an industrial laboratory. It was at this point that Pierre Curie, already on the faculty of an industrial institute in physics and chemistry, made what knowing Parisians would later call his greatest scientific discovery. Those of a more romantic bent would say he fell in love with this young woman, bright, courageous, and rather charming. After a brief and stormy courtship (she felt she should return to Poland and raise a bit of hell; he said he would follow her there), they married in July 1895, in Sceaux. The rest is history. Marie continued to think of Poland, taught her daughters Polish, science, and thrift (her wedding outfit became her laboratory gown). Later, during WWI, she drove a military ambulance on the front lines and used her own x-ray machine to diagnose soldiers’ wounds. When at peace, the Curies took cycling holidays. And, oh yes, Pierre, Marie, and their daughter Irène won, between them, five Nobel prizes. Marie Sklodowska Curie died of her researches in 1934. She was first buried next her husband in Sceaux; and then, in 1995, their remains were transferred to the Panthéon. But, these days, you can find her everywhere. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 08 Nov 2019, 13:59
"The Checkered Game of Life." Milton Bradley's first board game, invented in 1860.
In 1935 the Milton Bradley Company (MBC) brought forth a board game, ‘Easy Money,’ designed to counter the runaway success of Parker Brothers’ ‘Monopoly.’ It’s an interesting story for many reasons, not least because MBC’s founding genius would have disapproved of the name. For Milton Bradley did not believe that money came easily, but through character and hard work. Bradley was born on November 8, 1836, in Maine. His parents found work in the cotton mills of Lowell, MA, but Milton had higher ambitions. At the Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge and then an apprenticeship in Rhode Island, he learned mechanical drafting and lithography. In 1860, excited by the presidential campaign, he put these skills to work to produce (at his own expense) thousands of lithographs of Abraham Lincoln. Bradley hoped to make a killing selling these Abe souvenirs, but he had to burn them when Lincoln grew his beard. Undeterred, Milton Bradley invented a board game that seemed to him a lot like his own life story should be, The Checkered Game of Life. The game measured success in business terms and assumed causal connections between character, persistence, and wealth. This combination proved immensely popular, and before Abe Lincoln had been a year in office, Bradley had sold 45,000 games. Bradley invented and successfully marketed other, similar games, but after he became rich he turned his main attention to educational reforms. He was especially generous to those that stressed children’s creativity, their sense of play, and their innate love of learning. Milton Bradley’s real monument was not a board game or pack of cards, and certainly not “easy money.” You’ll find it instead in Bradley’s book The Paradise of Childhood: A Practical Guide to Kindergartners and in the kindergarten movement itself, to which Milton Bradley gave much of his time and more of his money. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 09 Nov 2019, 13:37
"Whatever happens, I know you will understand." Dorothy Dandridge's last message to her sister-in-law, 1965.
George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) is now ‘on’ in the venue it deserves, the Metropolitan Opera, and the two reviews I have read have been favorable, even enthusiastic. Each review, however, did refer to the fact that it has from the first been criticized as a white expropriation (and/or mistranslation) of the black experience. After all, Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Hayward (respectively composer, novelist, and librettist) were white, and at least some of their black characters are stereotyped. I have to say that much of our best literary art is produced by people who aren’t the people they portray: think only of Mark Twain’s black Jim who, seeking freedom for himself, singlehandedly liberates a young white boy from a different imprisonment. But Porgy and Bess was a difficult proposition for black artists. Harry Belafonte refused an offer to play Porgy on film, and Sidney Poitier (who took the role) found it psychologically demeaning. Dorothy Dandridge, who in the 1954 film played Bess opposite Poitier’s Porgy, found intolerable the whole business of being a black artist in a white world. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 9, 1922, Dorothy Jean Dandridge was raised a performer by her performing mother, Ruby Dandridge. It was a tough life, and fetched Dorothy (and her sister) up in Hollywood ill-educated and needing money. Dorothy played some stereotypical roles (e.g. as a domestic servant) but she then held out for better fodder and found some, so her role as the very scantily clad ‘Queen of the Ashuba’ in a 1951 Tarzan flic must have been agony. Then came Carmen Jones (1954, as Carmen, opposite Belafonte) and an Academy Award nomination, a string of minor successes, and then Porgy’s Bess (1959), and another nomination (Golden Globe), but again no award. Intelligent, beautiful, multi-talented, and feisty, she was a cover story for Ebony in 1951 and then Life in 1954. But the psychological damage was great, and Dorothy Jean Dandridge died a suicide (drug overdose) in 1965. The next time you enjoy Porgy and Bess, think of Dorothy Dandridge and of what a great role it could have been for a happier woman in a happier country. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 10 Nov 2019, 13:11
"The man who has the will to undergo all labor may win to any good." Martin Luther.
It is often said that those who, in England, chose to push for greater reformation in the church were drawn from ‘the industrious sort of people.’ Eventually they chose the Calvinist brand, ultimately to issue in the English Revolution and the ‘Puritan’ settlement of New England. John Calvin was a Frenchman, but also industrious in his habits (he was a student of the law), and further east the patron saint of Reformation was Martin Luther. Catholic propagandists later claimed that Luther’s mother Margarethe was a whorish bath attendant, but that seems unlikely. She married well, anyway, to an upwardly mobile burgher industriously involved in copper mining and smelting, Hans Luther, and among their children Martin Luther was the eldest, born on November 10, 1483. The eldest son may have been the favored child, and Hans intended his boy to become a lawyer; so sent him on an educational path to that end. Young Martin himself thought his training smelled more of purgatory than of a professional heaven. I’ve known a few law students to make a similar judgment and then go quite off the rails, but Martin Luther chose religion instead, and religion as he experienced it. For him ‘experience’ was the Bible, unvarnished, and one or two dramatic episodes (including lightning striking too close for comfort), and not the whole paraphernalia of the late medieval—and still nearly universal—church. This faith pulled him from the law into theology, thence into the church. Having thus defied his father, Luther was the readier to defy his archbishop and even the Bishop of Rome. Luther’s last straw seems to have been Pope Leo X’s requisitioning of funds to pay for the further glorification of St. Peter’s, Rome, a sort of spiritual tax that rolled down the hierarchy and was translated by Luther’s Archbishop into a local campaign to retail yet more indulgences. Moved himself to faith by the Bible (and by a bolt from the blue), Luther found the idea that one could rent one’s way into heaven objectionable, even preposterous. Famously, he offered 95 reasons for this, but it’s more likely that he nailed them to his archbishop’s nose than to a church door. Anyway, the rest is history. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 11 Nov 2019, 13:23
"Genius is the talent for seeing things straight." Maude Adams
One doesn’t think of 19th-century Salt Lake City as a theatrical hotbed, and indeed it wasn’t, but there, at the very heart of the Mormon empire, was the Brigham Young Theater. Drama was OK as long as it was “edifying,” and it was in Salt Lake City that Maude Adams was born, on November 11, 1872, the daughter of a Mormon actress and her gentile husband, Annie and James Kincadden. Maude’s first ‘role’ came when she was still a babe in arms, at the Brigham Young Theater, but soon Annie took her daughter in tow on tour, and by the time Maude appeared as a paid professional, age 5, in San Francisco she was Maude Adams. ‘Adams’ was her mother’s maiden name; the family was intensely Mormon, and Maude often returned to Salt Lake City to live with her Adams grandparents (and attend drama school). Maude’s own spirituality is not in doubt, but her denominational loyalties are unknown. Some thought of her as a Presbyterian; she left most of her considerable estate to a Roman Catholic sisterhood. But there is no doubt that Maude Adams became the USA’s leading lady in theater, at her peak (circa 1895-1915) pulling down about $1,000,000 annually in ‘wages.’ She was best known for starring in James Barrie’s plays, usually as heroine but most famously as the first American actress to play the lead in Peter Pan (in New York, 1905), but her fame began before that. It was her professional reputation that drew Barrie to her when he first exported his dramas from London to New York. Indeed he rewrote his Rosemary for her starring role in 1897. While critics more than occasionally gushed her praises, they could be savagely critical, too; but it was Maude Adams’ two-way rapport with the theater-going public that made her famous, made her rich, and brought her countless standing ovations (including once at Harvard Stadium): all this despite (or because of?) Maude Adams’ lesbianism. One of Maude’s late loves was Spring Byington, but Maude was buried (in 1953) next to her life partner, Louise Boynton, in the cemetery of the Sisters of the Canacle, in upstate New York, after a dozen years teaching drama at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 12 Nov 2019, 13:13
"A wise bear always carries a spare marmalade sandwich under his hat in case of emergencies." Paddington.
Paulette and I are among those shameless folk who have a ‘thing’ about marmalade. In 1969-70, our year in Oxford, we became acquainted with the rough-cut, dark, slightly bitter stuff, Frank Cooper’s ‘Oxford’ marmalade, but since we moved to St. Louis we’ve used Dundee marmalade, sweeter and clearer—and the only brand easily available. And we always associated marmalade with Dundee, for the Scots claimed it (along with haggis, oatmeal, and single-malt) as evidence of their culinary peculiarities. But ‘British’ marmalade was a very early importation, evidence of the ancient ties between English and Portuguese monarchies. At first it was quite bitter, dense, and unspreadable, indeed favored by some as medicinal, not as a garnish. It was Frank Cooper, an Oxford grocer, who made marmalade famous. Cooper was born at 46 High Street, Oxford, on November 12, 1844, above his father’s grocery. His mother died in 1855, his father in 1862, so Frank was just 17 when he took over the business (by then moved across The High to Nos. 83/4). He ran it successfully enough, but his most brilliant move came in 1872 when he married Sarah Jane Gill, daughter of a Worcester farmer and wholly accustomed to making things out of apples. Now ensconced in comfortable quarters above the shop, and before birthing any of her five children, Sarah Jane Cooper ‘invented’ Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade,® selling it over the counter in stone jars. Overnight, it became a sensation, first among Oxford students, then in the colleges (some tried to horn in by making their own), and then across the land—in, of course, the better sort of homes and clubs. When King Edward VII moved in, in 1901—that list included Windsor Castle. Frank’s marmalade accompanied Scott to the South Pole, though not, sadly, back; more happily, in 1953, a small jar went up Everest with Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. But by that time, Frank and Sarah Cooper were long gone. They’d lived frugally above the shop, but eventually (in 1907) floods of marmalade and money moved them to a lovely—though still modest—Edwardian town house which still sits in the Woodstock Road, not too far from the High Street shop where they first gave us ‘Oxford’ marmalade. ©.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 13 Nov 2019, 12:41
Partners in Plant Paleontology.
Evolutionary biology is one of my reading habits, but it’s been one-sided: animals in general, hominids in particular. This is a widespread fault among amateurs, and one reason that, in paleontology, the animal folks get almost all the glory and most of the money. Given food chain facts, now and in the ancient past, this is blindness, so it’s good to remember pioneers in plant paleontology, two of them today, Eleanor Mary Reid and Marjorie Chandler. Though of different generations they formed an important partnership, professional and domestic, and between them revolutionized the study of ancient plants, including not only the recovery and reconstruction of plant fossils but also the nearly encyclopedic explanation of their evolutionary relationships. Eleanor Mary Reid (née Wynne Edwards) was born in Wales on November 13, 1860. After graduating (London BSc) she taught science at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, but then (1897) married Clement Reid, a geologist specializing in plant paleontology. In terms of both research and publication it was a productive partnership, and after Clement’s death (1916) Eleanor continued the work and in 1920 was elected in her own right a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society. In the same year Eleanor Reid struck up a new partnership with a brilliant young scientist (First Class at Cambridge), Marjorie Chandler (1897-1983), and together they specialized in the study of plant evolution from the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. They lived together, too, Reid working in her attic laboratory (boiling in summer, freezing in winter) reconstructing fossils with largely home-made equipment, Chandler conceptualizing and helping to write up the results. When they weren’t in the field collecting fossils, they were pillars of their local community, heavily involved in church work, devoted gardeners and keen cyclists. As Reid’s health failed, Chandler became her nurse, and after Reid’s death (1953), Chandler finished their joint publications (in a series of monographs, 1961-64); she then retired to her church work and her garden until her death in 1983. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 14 Nov 2019, 13:32
"The composer who is frightened of losing his artistic integrity through contact with a mass audience is no longer aware of the meaning of the word 'art.'" Aaron Copland.
Somehow the ‘correspondence course’ seems quintessentially American; the first one (Boston, 1728, to learn shorthand) was offered before the mail service was at all dependable. But by the early 20th century fraudsters and genuine operators filled the papers with ads promising that one could learn, by mail, how to do (or, for that matter, to be) almost anything. And so young Aaron Copland signed up to learn music composition the hard way, remotely. He was only 15. Born on November 14, 1900, the youngest of five children, his immigrant parents ran a Brooklyn mom & pop. They weren’t rich, but his mom and eldest sister encouraged him at the piano, well enough that he very early formed an ambition to compose and indeed (from age 11) composed some short pieces. Luckily for everyone, Aaron Copland soon turned away from distance learning and self-instruction to sit at the feet of Rubin Goldmark, who taught the boy the basics and sent him on his way. Goldmark had too little sympathy for modern music, and soon Copland (aged 21) fetched up, in Paris, with Nadia Boulanger—not yet a legend but on her way. She saw Copland’s talent, taught him a classical discipline, but also encouraged his taste for innovation. That taste must have been encouraged, too, by the crowd Copland fell in with at the Sorbonne and at Sylvia Beach’s Left Bank bookstore: expatriates like Hemingway and Pound, Europeans like Picasso and Chagall. Copland returned to America with a reputation (as critic and as composer), with enough confidence to use it, and with a yen to make classical music relevant to his society, a yen that was transformed into an obsession by the Great Depression and the World War. The results are before us, in scads of recordings, and not only of ‘conventional’ concert material but ballets, film scores, occasional music for serious drama, and forays into other genres, notably jazz. If you care about American music, and think it might have a ‘classical’ expression, you should have (or acquire) a Copland favorite. I cheat by having two: the ballet Appalachian Spring (1944) and the Clarinet Concerto (1948). Next time you have a chance, give them a listen. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 15 Nov 2019, 13:23
“Come quickly. You mustn’t miss the dawn. It will never be just like this again.” Georgia O'Keeffe.
Modern (post-1960s) feminism brought many revisions to our view of life, one of which involved the ‘rediscovery’ of female artists (writers, painters, composers) and bringing them back to life. So my undergraduate American literature anthology is itself a museum piece, nearly—but not quite—bereft of the female voice. But Georgia O’Keeffe (born November 15, 1887, on a Wisconsin farm) was one female artist who lived long enough to enjoy at least some of the ride, for she (a painter) did not die until 1986. But also Georgia O’Keeffe had been in vogue for quite a long while, predating second-wave feminism, having made a dramatic splash in the New York market in the 1920s. She, for one, did not like to be called a woman artist—but she also thought that there were some things that only a woman could see. Ms. O’Keeffe was named for her maternal grandpa, Count George Victor Totto, an exiled Hungarian revolutionary (from the failed revolutions of 1848), and maybe picked up from him a rebellious spirit, for despite many discouragements (and much poverty) Georgia kept on learning her art—which was not the art she was taught—in various places, including Chicago and New York. She also taught painting—in West Texas, of all places, where she learned to love an arid landscape, its spectacular skies, and its rainfall blossoms. Back in New York, a show of some of her work entranced the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. He helped to make her famous, both her paintings and his photographs of her, and she certainly mourned him when he died (1946), but it was a weatherbeaten relationship, full of storms and calms, and as an artist one would have to conclude that she made her own way (into museums, private collections, and anthologies). Most famously, Georgia O’Keeffe settled near Taos, New Mexico, to paint, to be alone and now and then to host her odd (and shifting) collage of friends. O’Keeffe did pretty well at the Ghost Ranch, painting and drawing into her 96th year, then leaving an estate valued at $76 million and an archosaur fossil, found on her ranch and christened Effigea okeeffeae (“O’Keeffe’s Ghost”). ©